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A business case competition is a competition in which teams of students solve a variety of problems that face companies daily. Though most competing students are business majors, I would like to share how I, as an Asia Pacific Studies (APS) student, played an active role in my team.
What is JBCC?
In May 2021, I participated in the Japan Business Case Competition (JBCC) 2021 sponsored by APU, in which each team presents their solution to a designated issue. Along with 3 College of International Management (APM) students, I entered and preceded to the semifinals. For me, this tournament was far from my comfort zone, and though at times difficult, it allowed me to grow and realize things about myself that I could never have gained by staying put. I hope my experience encourages others to challenge themselves.
JBCC certificate (image edited for publication)
The reason I entered despite being an APS student
Because JBCC is a competition related to business, of course APM students are usually the ones to join. However, I, with no business knowledge or experience, decided to participate. The reason was simply because I was recommended to by my friend. From the time I was first recommended, I honestly knew that I could not use business-level English and that I would only be a burden. That being said, at the same time, I second guessed myself, “The person who recommended me was my international friend who speaks with me all the time in English. Maybe my English is better than I think!” Rather, I was incensed. “Even if I’m useless, you are the one who recommended the JBCC to me, so it’s not my fault!” Thus, feeling it may contribute to my own achievement and growth, I decided to participate.
The 3 obstacles
The reason why this was such a big challenge for me I will break down into 3 main issues and explain concretely. I also want to convey the importance of overcoming those 3 problems.
１. English Proficiency
Besides me, everyone else on the team was from India and enrolled as English-basis students. Although I have grown up in Japan for 18 years and have never had experience studying abroad, I have always had many friends who are international students, so I can handle daily conversation without problem. Even so, compared to English-basis students (in particular those enthusiastic enough to enter JBCC), my English proficiency was sorely lacking. In JBCC, time is limited, so teammates must be able to read the problems, as well as internet articles, quickly and correctly and communicate with each other.
In response to this problem, I resolved to rely on devices for the most part. Specifically, this meant that I relied on devices for professional jargon. As for the assigned problem, I used google translation, but I learned that google translation on a computer, not a mobile app, has a function to translate the PDF document as it is.
２. Differences in work style
As someone who grew up in a collectivist culture, I had many difficulties adapting to the individualistic work style of my Indian colleagues. For example, I would voice my opinion while fixating on the goal of the team, whereas my teammates would insist on the best opinions of the individual. Those opinions sometimes seemed outlandish and uncooperative to me. But by taking each individual opinion, we were able to come up with better and better solutions. I am not trying to advocate for one work style over another. Each style has its merits and drawbacks that are important to consider when it comes to producing good teamwork and good results. After this experience, taking Dr. Robert C. Salazar, Ph.D. ‘s Sociology of Organizations class deepened my understanding and interest in the organizational systems of each country. If anyone experiences a multinational environment or a community with a culture that is completely different from one’s background, I recommend Professor Salazar's class.
３. Mixing with APM students as an APS student without business knowledge
As I have already stated, I did not have any business knowledge or confidence, but that was a needless worry. That was because what is expected of APS students is not business knowledge, but knowledge of the surrounding environment and sustainable development. Compared to APM students who learn to view things from an economic point of view, APS students learn to look at solving problems on a macro scale, considering environmental problems as well as local and global communities. That’s when I realized, APS education isn’t meaningless once you enter the job market. Rather, we are learning the frames of approaching social issues and knowledge that are necessary for us for the future.
With My teammates. We took off the masks only for this picture.
Though I believe the APS point of view is necessary for solving business issues, I couldn’t convey this well to my team sometimes. The result was I was not able to make full use of my knowledge and my ability to see things from diverse points of view. At JBCC, I took it for granted that my partners would be like APS students and accept the importance of environmental issues. But as I stated, APM and APS students have different perspectives on the same reality so sharing requires a different approach. As a result, I did not effectively demonstrate my proposal’s merit to my colleagues.
Taking on an internship
Thereafter, taking what I learned from JBCC, I decided to take on the challenge of an agreement-type internship. This internship was at a sake brewery that wanted to think of a solution to their problems from a college student’s point of view. Here, I am tackling real problems and my proposals may even become part of the company’s strategy. In other words, we can tackle issues in a problem-solving process that is closer to practical application than JBCC. At this internship, I would like express my unique opinions skillfully and collaborate with others’ ideas in order to make better proposals, something I learned at JBCCs.
Conclusion- Make friends who give you a new perspective
Overcoming these various difficulties helped me grow as a person. This was all thanks to my talented and friendly team who stood beside me. It was because of them I found motivation and a reason to do my best.
The reason is it was an environment that valued the ability to "create new value from a new perspective." This ability is also my strength. I experienced a typical Japanese education culture that values maintaining the atmosphere of the class and keeping in tune with the opinions of others. However, when I was among international students, different opinions were valued, so I began to desperately seek new perspectives. My teammates appreciated this attitude and perspective and respected my opinions.
Certainly, I was able to grow by leaving my comfort zone, but what I really want to emphasize is the importance of my friends. In a sense of urgency, you may think of "friends" as something to help you achieve your goals. Honestly, I do not completely deny the idea. Because the ability to understand and do what is necessary to achieve a goal is an important skill. However, if you just add a little awareness that your actions involve someone else, you will have the presence of mind to take care of them and build a good relationship with your partners.
If I was all on my own, I doubt I would’ve made it past the preliminaries. It was only possible because of my friends. In other words, a difficult challenge away from your comfort zone is made possible by having colleagues to trust in. Many people may think that reliable friends cannot be created immediately. Of course, that is true. That is why you should put in the utmost effort to prove your trustworthiness. It's hard, but there are many opportunities for us to challenge ourselves while we are college students. You must take the opportunity.
Nice to meet you! I am a fourth year APS student who loves to try new things. I am 100% Japanese with no experience studying abroad by Japanese standards. I want to have academic conversations with my international student friends, so I'm taking advantage of quarantine to study English! Once things turn around, I'll be back on the road to various places~! Best regards.